August 9, 2012
Two days after the legendary Hampton shows and the band is still floating in a dazzling MIDI nebula. There is no doubt that their new digital toys inspired the band heartily. You'd have to go back to at least '77 and maybe even '72 to get find the consistent level of exploration found on this tour. I prefer spring '90 since by that time they had reigned in much of the excess of their MIDI exploration. But for sheer psychedelic splatter this tour is hard to beat.
The “Althea” is marvelous on this night. Same with “Cassidy.” In fact every single tune has something to remarkable, different or inventive except for perhaps “Good Time” and “Don’t Ease”. The “China-Rider” is not to be missed. After 10 years of nearly beating this wonderful duo into mediocrity and even borderline parody they bust out a version here that covers ground never even imagined. Both songs are just brimming with an endless flow of ideas. After the first instrumental break of “I Know You Rider” it is almost a surprise when they come back to the next verse. Listen to the crowd, they are nearly in awe.
Speaking of which, this is a superb Matrix with Phil big and bouncy, Bobby’s guitar in your face and the vocals are even as well. Garcia is playing like he is possessed by digital demons all night and singing his heart out. This is further evidence of this brief and glorious period in later GD history when Garcia was clean and his playing was inspired night after glorious night. This run at the Meadowlands is all truly superb. I believe that it doesn’t nearly get the recognition it deserves due to the brutally sad tragedy surrounding this run: the murder of Adam Katz that has never been solved. Being on tour at this time was especially unsettling. Most of us realized it could have just as easily been ourselves. In a sense, it was. In retrospect, this was foreshadowing of the tragic passing of Brent Mydland who was so f**king hot on this tour and the next that even Garcia had a hard time keeping up. His contribution was so powerful that the fall of ’91, with the start of the pitiful and laughable Vinnie era, it seemed like half the band was gone. Even adding the more than capable two hands of Bruce Hornsby could not fill that hole. The rest was a brutal decline that ended 17 year ago today. [JGB remained excellent, though!]
Anyway, despite the weird energy of these shows and this tour, these are simply amazing on a musical level. The band was at least in the stratosphere every night and sometimes in another galaxy and at the best times they catapulted us into different universes and dimensions. God Bless the Grateful Dead! I miss that Fat Man. Jeez.